Researchers find spiritual experiences energize brain’s reward regions

human-brain-graphicUniversity of Utah researchers have found that the parts of the human brain that release feelings of euphoria are energized when we have religious experiences like attending a worship service or reading scripture. They claim their research shows that they are the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by drug highs, music, gambling, sex, and love.

The subjects of the study were 19 young adult Mormons (12 males, 9 females) who they subjected to periods of religious activity while doing fMRI scans of their brains to see which areas were stimulated by religious events. “They described feelings of peace and physical sensations of warmth. Many were in tears by the end of the scan. In one experiment, participants pushed a button when they felt a peak spiritual feeling while watching church-produced stimuli.”

Why do the experiment? Researcher Jeffrey Anderson says, “Religious experience is perhaps the most influential part of how people make decisions that affect all of us, for good and for ill. Understanding what happens in the brain to contribute to those decisions is really important.” He acknowledges that people of other faiths weren’t tested so they’re not sure if they would get the same results with non-Mormons.

Although our minds are a gate through which we experience religion, which is why the Bible teaches us to guard our minds, the experiences these researchers discovered goes to a much deeper level than that. It’s a level that no MRI scan can measure (especially since Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). Being affected subconsciously as these subjects were reveal the influence our environment can have on us, such as the type of music we listen to that may be sending us subliminal spiritual messages when it ignites the reward circuits of our brains (think backmasking encoded in secular music).

This study also points out how people can be easily deceived when they rely on euphoric feelings unleashed by their brains, since Mormonism is really a cult. To find truth that has a sincere, positive, and lasting impact on our emotions, it is important to measure everything by God’s truth as revealed in his word by the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. Matthew 13:19

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:7-8 (God’s peace guards our hearts and minds through Christ and it is beyond all understanding, including the understanding reflected in an MRI.)

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